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May 2013
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July 2013

Vietnam: Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi



May/June 2013

Where do I begin.... with our buffalo ride? 


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Or the motorcycle ride?



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The people?



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The temples?



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The beach?



Baby on the beach



Or the beautiful scenery?


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This was a real vacation... meaning D did not have to work!  We started in the ancient town of Hoi An, 30 km south of Da Nang, one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia in the 16th century.  Many of the old houses in Hoi An reflect a blend of both Chinese and Japanese architecture.  Today they are known for their silk lanterns and...


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the Japanese bridge, said to be one of the most famous bridges in Vietnam.   It was constructed in the early 1600s, to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter.  Today the old town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World heritage Site.


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Our hotel was a few miles away from the main part of town, in a rice field.  We loved it!  This is where we got to ride the  water buffalo.  I have now ridden an elephant, a camel, and a  water buffalo.  What next?    


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What we liked about our hotel was just a few steps out the door we were able to see the daily life of the local community.  We were there at the end of a rice harvest and the fields had just been cut.  The farmers were preparing the land for the next crop.  They can get three crops in per year.  This farmer was using his buffalo to till the land.  Funny how he holds the tail.


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This one will go into my "Haystacks Around the World" book!



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And you think walking the dog each morning is a chore!



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Planting seed for the next crop.


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Grocery shopping at the duck farm.



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With free delivery!




I have to show you the bathtub/shower in our hotel room, it was completely outside!  It was very relaxing to take a bath at night, under the full moon.


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The Full Moon Lantern Festival


We timed this trip so we would be there for the full moon lantern festival.



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On the 14th day of every lunar month, the old town of Hoi An celebrates the Full Moon Lantern Festival.  They streets are closed to cars and motorcycles.  Street lights are off as well as the front lights of the shops.  People bring out candles and lanterns to light up the streets.  It is magical.


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For the locals the night of the full moon is the time to honor their ancestors by setting up altars and offering fruit, flowers, candles and incense to the deceased.  


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I thought this was a big event for tourists, but the Vietnamese are the main participants.  They come from miles around to join in the festivities.  The streets were insane!  I do no know where all the people came from.  At 6:00 we were pretty much the only ones on the street.  By nightfall, you could barely walk on the street, it was so crowded.



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Locals were everywhere selling cardboard lotus-flower-shaped lanterns, with tiny candles.  They had the young children approach us with their “cute face” to encourage us to buy from them.  It worked…


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Once purchased, you release your candle into the river to bring happiness, luck, and love.


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It was quite beautiful to see all the lanterns floating in the river.



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The next morning we signed up for a sunrise photography tour to a nearby fishing village.  It was well worth the time and money. 


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We were picked up at our hotel at 4:55 am!



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It is a busy fishing port.  The ladies are waiting for the daily catch to come in.



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They purchase the fish from the fishermen, clean them, and turn right around and sell them to people on the shore.


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They are weighing the fish and negotiating a price.



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 The fish look really good.



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Look  how beautifully the fish are laid out in the basket.



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Counting the profit from the day's catch, and using the special "toe bank."



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They look pretty happy.  Must be a good day for fishing.



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The people of the fishing village


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Just a few feet from where all the fish action takes place, there are a few restaurants and shops.  The people were very friendly and open to us taking their photos. 



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I chatted with these two ladies via our photographer-guide.  They wanted to know how old I was.  This is the number one question Asians ask.  We don't think they really care, it is just a line of Englsih they learn first.  They are also intrigued with our "white" skin and usually want to know where we are from.  I always say Singapore, which produces a puzzled look on their face and they usually say "you are not from Singapore!"



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The fitting...

Hoi An is famous for their tailors and custom-made clothes, shoes, and leather goods.  I have never seen so many tailors in one small town.  Donald has a tailor he really likes in Bangkok, so he was not interested.  I have never had custom clothes made so I gave it a try.



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I bought two dress, two pairs of pants, and the polka-dot top below.  We got the dress and the pants to fit, but were running out of time to get the top right, so she put me on the back of her motorcycle and took me to the seamstress - her cousin.



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That ride changed the rest of our vacation... (in a good way)!



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Next stop Hue

We took a three-hour train ride from Hoi An to Hue.  When we arrived, I told the hubby I had read that the best way to see Hue and all the temples was via motorcycle tour.  I asked, "Would you want to do this?"  With big eyes he says - are you kidding me - I would LOVE this.  So a quick email and we had a guide for the next day.  He claims it was my ride with the tailor that changed me.



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Our guides, Tim and Heui with Hue Adventures, were right on time to meet us at our hotel.  We selected them because they are #1 on Trip Adviser for motorcycle tours.  Poor Tim, when we first started I had my arms around his waist and squeezed him every time I was scared... which was all the time for the first 15 min.  And as you can see he is half the size of me!


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Love this photo - look how happy D is, and how focused Heui is.



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We were in city traffic for a short time.


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Then went off the beaten path through jungle like areas to visit temples.  I liked this better than the crazy city.  


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Vietnam is a beautiful country.  Officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, it is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.



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There are hundreds of old pagodas in Hue; Tu Hieu is one of the most famous.   The pagoda was originally a small hut built in 1843.  In 1848, the pagoda was restored and become a burial site.





Built in 1601, the Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest in Vietnam.   



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 Acres and acres of rice fields. 



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The Thanh Toan Bridge just outside of Hue is a beautiful old tiled bridge built in 1776 by a lady of the village who married a wealthy man.  She desperately wanted a son and as part of her prayers she built the bridge to help her neighbors.  So the story goes…



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The famous Mother Dieu, known as the “Love fortune-teller” sits inside the old bridge and will tell you a fortune for a small price.  But... she will only tell foreigners their fortune.



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This is my reaction when she told me D had a 17-year-old son - this was after she asked me if I had any children and I told her no!  She also told me I get mad at him because he works too much (laughing).


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This is the view coming back into the old section of Hue.  The lotus lights were put up that week to honor Buddha's Birthday.  They were even prettier at night.



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The next day we visited Hue Imperial City (The Citadel).


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The Citadel was constructed in 1805 under the Nguyen Dynasty.  Between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty and served as the house of the government.  



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The Citadel takes up a large part of the city.  It is walled-in on the north side of the Perfume River.  In ancient times, the inside of the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close to them could enter; the punishment for trespassing was death.  


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This colorful flower, which resembled an orchid, was in bloom all over the city.  It is called a Flame Tree.

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One of the guard's gates to the Imperial City.



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The Journey back from Hue to De Nang... via motorcycle!!

I let D talk me into bagging the train ride back and taking a 5-hour motorcycle ride.  He whined... "it is the same route they took on Top Gear!"  Click here to read all about this adventure - it warranted a post all on its own!



D on bike



We stayed one night in Da Nang.  It is about 45 minutes from Hoi An, but closer to the airport.  With an early morning flight to Hanoi, we though this would be easier.  Plus, De Nang is known for its beaches, with the most famous being China Beach (where thousands of American G.I.s spent their leave surfing and sunning during the Vietnam War).

The neighborhood was local, non-touristy; so we had fun exploring that afternoon.  There was an evening market going on.  I LOVE this photo - look closely, the woman is giving her friend a pedicure while selling fish.  OH MY!


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She must have negotiated a good price, as she is really happy.



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Many of the grandparents asked us to take photos of the children.  This guy looks like he is eating well.  He is almost as big as his grandfather!



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Beautiful big eyes!



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Just a gas pump, but you have to admit it is interesting!



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When we first arrived at the beach it was pretty quiet.



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But VERY quickly it became insane.  And this was at 5:30 at night.  What we learned is, the Vietnamese never go to the beach during the day, too much sun.  Instead, they go in the evening and take dinner.  They had all kinds of food cooking on the beach.  Surprisingly very little was for sale.


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They all seemed to cluster into one area on the beach.  If you looked in the other direction, hardly anyone was there.  It was also interesting to note that most of the women went swimming with clothes on, not bathing suits.



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There were also fishermen packing up their boat.


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Our last stop was Hanoi and it was all about shopping, food, and coffee.  Since we visited last year we did not take as many photos as usual, click here to read more about our earlier trip to Hanoi,


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Have you ever tasted egg coffee?  Click here to read more about this delicious drink... heaven in a glass!


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The kitchen of the restaurant where we ate twice.  Between eating here and the motorcycle ride... I must be getting crazy in my old age!



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And the dishwasher.  Sure, those dishes are clean.  I've mentioned it before, because we have iron Asia tummies, we never get sick (knock on wood).



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Loved this dish of beef and greens - isn't it pretty?


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Pigeon.  They probably caught it around the corner  :  )

You would pay top dollar for pigeon in a French restaurant!



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Someone is enjoying his meal.  Total cost for dinner with beer - $7.00 usd.



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D food

This is my favorite Vietnamese dish, bun thit nuong.  My mom and I get this very dish in the Vietnamese restaurant near her house - she loves it.  Pretty sure she would not eat at the restaurant where we had this one.


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This man was interesting.  He asked if he could sit with us - all with hand-language, as he did not speak ONE WORD of English.  He talked to us for 30 minutes IN Vietnamese.


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He was very intrigued with D's age spots.  Pointing to them and touching his skin, then touching his own arm.  He was also interested in my nose.  He would point to my nose then push on his.  We are pretty sure he was telling me I had a big honker!  The whole thing was bizarre.


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 We had an absolute BLAST in Vietnam!!  And if the 100 plus photos I shared aren't enough, I have a slide show with the extra ones!  Enjoy.












The five-hour motorcycle ride - Hue to De Nang, Vietnam


Hue to De Nang

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On my previous post, I mentioned the motorcycle tour around Hue. Well, I let D and the motorcycle guys (Tim and Heui) talk me into scrapping the train ride back to De Nang and instead taking a 5-hour, fun-filled, exciting ride on the back of a motorcycle.  D said it was on his bucket list.  really?  This was the first I had heard of it.  But how could I deny him a bucket list wish?

Let's start off with the video so you can have a better feel for our adventure.




The new me... riding a motorcycle!  I love this photo - me looking so, "I am women, hear me roar". 


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At the next break, I put on the cute pink jacket I bought at the market for $10.  The girls at the hotel said I should have only paid $5.  I bought it for protection from the sun.  ALL of the girls wear them in Vietnam.  Notice how it covers my hands.  Vietnamese girls cover every bit of skin by wearing the hood under the helmet, wearing a mask, AND socks (with flip-flops).  They do not want to get any sun.



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 D spent most of the ride photographing me!






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Our first stop was a little fishing village that was off the beaten path.   A stunning scene.



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It was quiet and peaceful.  No other tourists.



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Such a hard way of life.



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Back on the road to continue our journey.



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Every turn had a beautiful view.


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It was interesting to see that these rice fields were at a very different stage than the ones by our hotel in Hoi An, only a few hours away. 



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We could not have asked for a more perfect day, puffy white clouds and all.


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D kept trying to get me to "lean" into the turns.  I told him I would lean the other way so we would not topple over.  Yes, I know that is the wrong way... you need to go with the flow.


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What are those relaxing in the water?



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Water buffalo!  With a face only a mother could love.  We never get tired of animal sightings!



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Wait - look at me... I am the pretty one!



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We took a break at the Elephant Falls.  It was a delightful little stop out in nowhere.  They say hundreds of elephants used to live here.  Sadly, they are now gone.


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The water was very clear and a nice place to swim.  Can you spot D?  He said the water was very cold.




Tim, having a good time.  But what a tough job, they go back the same night and it takes around 5 hours due to traffic.  They are basically on the bike 10 hours and they turnaround and do it again the next day.  During the busy season, they take the route everyday of the week. 


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No, we were not going the wrong way on a one-way street!



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Now that is a proper lean by D!



D bike


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Lunch time!



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The most awesome mussels we have ever eaten!  I have been craving them ever since.



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Us with Tim and Heui - they were really easygoing, fun guys.  They made the trip for us!



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If you look closely in the photo below, you can see a train on the mountain, it was the train we were supposed to take back to Da Nang.  The tickets were only $3 each way so not a big loss.



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You can see De Nang in the distance.  I was not sure I wanted the ride to be over!


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A cool shot of D.  I like the arrows on the road - that was totally by chance. 


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And I'll end with a group shot.  Thank you Tim and Heui - you made a memory for us that we would never forget!



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